Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Real Ghostbusters

As my quest to transfer all of my VHS tapes to DVD continues, it's brought me to the letter G. So the series I'm currently working on is Ghostbusters. Or more specifically, The Real Ghostbusters.

("Shouldn't Real Ghostbusters be under the letter R," you ask? Of course not. The Real Ghostbusters has to go right next to the Ghostbusters movies. Don't be silly.)

Without anything new in the world of Ghostbusters over the last 15 years or so, I'd forgotten how good this show was. Oh sure, there's the new videogame, but the languidness of the franchise had sunk in with me, so I wasn't really inspired to check it out. (Dave was; I figured if it was really exciting, he'd let me know. Since he didn't, he either never got it or wasn't impressed by it. Can't say either way. But I digress.)

I debated not even copying them. If I hadn't watched them in the last 15-20 years, why bother? And then I thought, no, we did break them out once when Craig was discussing the show. Mylene seemed to enjoy it at the time, maybe she'd have an interest in it in the future. So I figured I'd at least copy my first tape.

By the end of the tape I was looking to see what was released on DVD and debating just buying the whole series instead. (I've decided against it for now due to price and shelf space. ...For now.)

I knew J. Michael Straczynski had something to do with this show; it turns out he was the story editor, and wrote quite a few scripts himself. And for the first season on ABC and the 65 episodes made straight for syndication, he was directed to treat it like he was continuing the movie. The characters are treated like normal adults, the situations have tons of things that today would be considered inappropriately imitatable behavior, and the dialogue is intelligent and witty.

With a few notable exceptions, it simply wasn't a kids cartoon. It was a great, all-ages show. One of the episodes I watched recently, "Masquerade," dealt with a kid trying to emulate the Ghostbusters, which leads him to go to their headquarters and trying to audition for the team. Peter Venkman takes a liking to the kid and even brings him along on a call-- much to the chagrin of the rest of the team. "What's Peter thinking?" Ray complains to Egon and Winston. "This is no place for a kid, he could've been killed." Which I absolutely LOVED, for multiple reasons: (1) Most cartoons would never have addressed that-- they would treated it as complete fantasy that some exec would have thought was necessary "so the kids can identify with him" or some other such nonsense; and (II) they actually used the word killed, which is usually verboten in cartoons. Even in Robotech they often used "destroyed" instead.

I also have to give lots of credit to the writing team of Michael Edens & Mark Edens. Anytime their names come up on the title card I know I'm in for a good episode.

When the show went into its second season on ABC it was now a hit, and so of course the execs then started stepping in, to the point that JMS left the show. You can see a dip in the writing at that point, which is ironic because the animation improves greatly. JMS did come back to write some of the later episodes, and there are some good episodes by other people as well, but in general the later post-syndication episodes I've seen have been very hit-or-miss.

It turns out there's a whopping 140 episodes (although 10 of them are only 15 minute episodes, when the show was turned into the Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters hour). And out of these, I have 59. So yeah, I may end up looking into those official DVDs eventually after all...

...So if that's the case, why transfer my old VHS copies to DVD now? Doesn't that make this a waste of time?

Of course not. I'm having too much fun watching them again. Don't be silly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Doctor Who - "Dreamland"

The latest not-really-an-episode in the latest not-really-a-season of Doctor Who is a CGI special, "Dreamland." The story takes place at Area 51, which is supposedly commonly referred to as "Dreamland." Has anyone else ever heard of this? I have to admit, I'm not an Area 51/Roswell Conspiracy aficionado, but as often as they've been used in SF stories, you'd think I'd have heard the term before now.

The story is solid-- I'd pick this over "Delta and the Bannermen" or "The Web Planet" any day. The animation is great when dealing with spaceships, aliens, scenery and effects in general, but not so great when it comes to people. But overall, I'd say it's still stronger animation than what we got in "Scream of the Shalka" or the reconstructed episodes of "The Invasion." (I still have yet to watch all of "The Infinite Quest," but from what I saw of it seemed to be by the same studio that did "The Invasion.") And the acting is great from everyone, with David Tennant's usual charm coming through just fine even though his face has to be animated. (Although for some reason Georgia Moffett sounds like Nicola Bryant to me. Maybe it's something in the way British women try to do American accents.)

Overall I think it's a worthy part of the 2009 non-season and a shame that it isn't being included in the "Complete Specials" Box Set.